It was a phone call from relatives of a Toronto couple murdered years before in Florida that caused the children of Barry and Honey Sherman to hire a criminal lawyer and retired cops, launching a private investigation that officially ended in Toronto Monday.
The Shermans were told in that phone call two years ago that private detectives would help them ensure that Barry and Honey’s deaths were properly investigated.
“A second lens” on the case is how Sherman family lawyer Brian Greenspan eventually described it to the Star.
At a press conference at Toronto Police headquarters Monday morning, Homicide Inspector Hank Idsinga announced, on behalf of the Sherman family, that the private investigation led by Greenspan was over.
“The work of the private investigative team hired by the family at the outset has been completed,” Idsinga said. The Sherman family were not in attendance.
Idsinga said police and the Sherman family were on the same page going forward. The family’s $ 10 million reward remains available to anyone with key information, but Idsinga wants the public to contact his team or CrimeStoppers if they have a tip. He invited anyone who provided one of 343 tips to the now defunct Sherman private eye team to “resubmit” to police.
For his part, Greenspan told the Star Monday he remains an “advisor and consultant” and a “spokesperson” if needed by the family.
But how did the Sherman children come to launch their own investigation the day after their parents’ strangled bodies were discovered?
Barry, 75, and Honey Sherman, 70, billionaires and philanthropists (Barry founded generic drug giant Apotex), were found on the deck of their basement swimming pool room on the morning of Friday, December 15, 2017. A realtor touring clients (the house was for sale) made the discovery. Homicide detective Brandon Price told reporters at the scene there was no sign of forced entry and “indications are that we have no outstanding suspect to be going after.”
Those comments upset the Sherman family and friends, and their anger at the police grew when media reported that police sources said the case was being probed as a murder-suicide, with Barry killing his wife, then himself. How could this be, people wondered. The Sherman couple had been busy making plans for dinners with friends, a trip to Florida, a Hanukkah visit with a new grandchild.
Hours after the bodies were discovered, distraught family and friends gathered that Friday night at the home of Sherman daughter Alexandra Krawczyk and her husband Brad. In a horrible twist of fate, Honey and Barry had been due that evening at Alexandra’s home at 6 pm to light candles and have a Hanukkah dinner, according to emails viewed by the Star.
That evening, Alexandra received a telephone call from a relative of Rochelle Wise and David Pichosky, a Toronto couple murdered (cause of death was asphyxiation) in Hallendale, Florida in 2013. The case remains unsolved to this day. The Wise/Pichosky relative told Alexandra that their family had found private investigators invaluable in probing the unsolved murders and helping them navigate the quite foreign world of police and crime.
By the Saturday morning, on advice from the Sherman family’s civil lawyer, criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan was retained by the Sherman estate. Greenspan had once been retained in the 1990s by Barry Sherman to handle a contempt of court motion from one of Barry’s generic pharmaceutical cases. Greenspan immediately hired Tom Klatt, a former homicide investigator, along with Mike Davis and Ray Zarb, all former Toronto homicide detectives.
Perhaps the most important thing the private team did, with the help of retired Ontario Deputy Chief Coroner Jim Cairns, was to hire Dr. David Chiasson, a renowned forensic pathologist, who was formerly Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist. Chiasson did a second set of autopsies, made a finding of double murder, and six weeks after that Friday night, police announced it was a “targeted” double murder they were probing. Police detectives did not interview Chiasson until a Toronto Star story revealed his findings.
Halfway through the private team’s parallel investigation, Greenspan held a press conference and criticized the Toronto Police for its investigation of the case, claiming his investigators noticed when they examined the Sherman home that some fingerprints had not been collected, and that the pool deck where the bodies were found had not been vacuumed with a special device to locate microscopic clues. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders responded by saying his officers had done an exemplary job.
As homicide Inspector Idsinga explained at Monday’s press conference, his detectives have been busy probing the case for two years. Using figures earlier provided in court to the Star as part of the newspaper’s attempts to unseal search warrant documents, Idsinga listed off the accomplishments his team had made to date, though he would not say if an arrest is imminent.
“To date, investigators have obtained 38 judicial authorizations, which have resulted in the searches of residential and commercial properties, electronic devices, and the production of 73 individual records,” Idsinga told reporters. “One hundred and fifty items have been submitted to the Centre of Forensic Science for testing; 243 witnesses have been interviewed; and four terabytes of security video have been obtained.” Idsinga would not provide explanations of what any of these figures meant.
Nor would he say if police have a suspect or suspects. Previously, one of his officers, detective constable Dennis Yim, told a Star reporter during cross examination in court that police had a “working theory” and an “idea of what happened.”
Asked by reporters of what police had learned, Idsinga said “I can’t get into what the evidence is telling us. There are a lot of theories. There is a lot of speculation. I just can’t get into that now.”
But Idsinga did ask the public to step forward and provide any information that would assist with their investigation. Previously, the Sherman family’s private team had asked for the same thing, creating a tip line and vowing to turn any information received over to the police. Idsinga said the private team handed over 343 tips (the last one was in July) but he is asking the public to “please re-submit those tips directly to the police.” In an answer to a question from a reporter, Idsinga said he wants to “be sure” he has all of the tips.
The Star has previously reported that the Sherman private investigation team collected the phone and email tips and turned them over on a mass storage device to the police every week. At least one of the tips was from a psychic, the Star learned in its cross examination of detective constable Yim.
“I believe that (private) tip line is now offline,” Idsinga said.
As to the reward money, he said “the Sherman family, in consultation with the Toronto Police Service, will be responsible for dissemination of any reward money.”
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In early November, the Star learned that the private investigation was over. The Star reached out to Greenspan, inquiring if it was true that the Sherman family or estate had ended the retainer. Greenspan responded by email: “This is my final response to your annoying and inaccurate suggestions — the specifics of our retainer is privileged — our retention and commitment to the investigation of the murders of Barry and Honey Sherman remains unchange — print anything to the contrary at your own peril.”
As to the length of the police probe, the homicide squad’s Idsinga said the fact that the case has been investigated for two years is not unusual and he said he did not believe it would become a “cold case.”
Asked if the Sherman family had been helpful, Idsinga responded that “the Shermans have been terrific with us and very cooperative.”